prop up a pillar


Senior Member
Hi all, please explain to me the meaning of the bold one. Does it mean "stand still" or something? It's from Love letters by Katie Fforde

"It was because he had two young women, only too eager to open the books at the right page, put them into paper bags and keep his wine glass topped up, that Laura was propping up a pillar; they didn’t need her help. And Henry, the owner of the shop, had been firm. ‘You set all this up, got all these people here, ordered the wine, opened the polystyrene snacks: take a break.’"

  • sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    No, it means that she was leaning against a pillar. It's humorous (but not very): "propping up a pillar" literally means that she was preventing the pillar from falling down, but it is not intended to be taken literally here.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    The humor, such as it is, resides in the fact that pillars themselves are strong structures which prop up or support other things. So to be propping up a pillar is to be doing unnecessary work, i.e., to be superfluous.


    Senior Member
    American English
    It's similar to what my dad used to say if I was leaning against a wall: "Keeping that wall from falling down?" It's a slightly humorous way of saying "leaning there doing nothing."
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